Protests: International Standards 2016



Protests: International Standards 2016
by Susan Basko, esq.

The expert panel of OSCE ODIHR has issued, Human Rights Handbook on Policing Assemblies, its latest guidebook on international standards for protests. You can download a pdf of the guidebook HERE.   Previous versions in earlier years have leaned toward vague and euphemistic wording and idealistic expectations.  This 2016 version is more specific and useful, perhaps because of the addition of 10 panelists from police departments worldwide.

On this panel from the U.S., there is Ralph Price, General Counsel of the Office of the Superintendent from the Chicago Police Department.  Chicago has an excellent recent track record of large protests with no major trouble.  Chicago has also been able to hold huge non-protest events with only minor expected problems.  These events have included the November 2016 rally and parade for the Chicago Cubs World Series win, which the City of Chicago estimates had an attendance of 5 million people, making it the largest gathering ever in the United States and the seventh largest gathering in world history.  By any measure, this makes the Chicago Police experts at handling crowds. This sort of real world expertise helps make this new guidebook quite useful.

Note: OSCE ODIHR stands for Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. OSCE has 57 participating nations on 3 continents of Europe, North America, and Asia.

In this guidebook, "assembly" specifically means a protest of some sort.  These guidebook lists "meetings, rallies, pickets, demonstrations, marches, processions, parades and flash mobs."  Glaringly absent is almost any mention of camping or tent protests, which have been prevalent worldwide over the past 5 years.  Page 13 of the guidebook makes this statement, but fails to call it "camping," and fails to mention tents: "Though they (protests) are usually of temporary nature, they may also last for considerable time, with their semi-permanent structures in place for several months." After this brief mention, the topic of camping as a protest is dropped.  In fact, since the Occupy protests, camping protests have become popular worldwide.

Also missing is any mention of a sit-in, which is a short or long term residence inside a building.  Another term used for this is occupation.  For example, in January 2016, armed protesters at the Maleur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon took over a lodge-like park office building that was closed for the season.  This was called an occupation, an armed occupation, a stand-off.

Camping and sit-in protests involve the occupation and exclusive use of space meant to be shared by others. These protests are often highly effective at galvanizing dissent and thus, may be highly useful to a democracy.  They are also where law enforcement most needs to be guided and restrained.  If you have been paying attention to the recent police actions against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and allied protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline that proposes to send oil through several U.S. States, you have seen protesters sprayed with water in freezing temperatures, attacked with chemical weapons, and injured with projectiles shot from guns. The "No DAPL" protesters have a huge groundswell of support and appear to be holding ground on land that rightly belongs to their tribe.  Yet, stories of abuse by law enforcement against the protesters are cropping up daily.  The photos and videos are hard to deny.

Flash mobs are also listed in the "Types of Assemblies"  (pg 15), but are only minimally addressed thereafter.  This may be because a peaceful flash mob will usually be over and gone before there can be any police response.

Another topic that is missing from the guidebook is the manner of making arrests.  This is glossed over.  In the U.S., there has developed a widespread practice of police forcing a person to the ground to arrest the person.  This has led to many cases of injury and to physical abuse committed by police.  The arrestee is often ordered or forced to the ground, usually for no apparent reason.  Often, a police officer places a knee into the back of the person on the ground.  This surely causes injury to anyone and has been known to cause severe injury and death. Numerous videos show multiple police officers piling onto a person on the ground. Many videos show the person on the ground being kicked, beaten, or even shot (though shooting is usually in individual encounters and not in protest situations.)  The method and manner of arrest is an issue of dire, immediate importance in human rights with regard to policing.  The guidebook would have been far more balanced if the panel had included those who plan and participate in protests, rather than such a theory-only based panel.  It is way past time for any groups interested in human rights to address the manner and method of making an arrest.

Another topic that is missing is the widespread practice of targeting peaceful leaders for arrest.  Again, including panelists with real protest experience would have been useful.  Leaders of protests are often "picked off" by police in what are essentially random kidnappings.  Again, there is often video to show that such arrests come about with no provocation or need.

Another major topic that the guidelines do not address is the jamming or other interference with wifi or phone signals, and/or the use of stingrays to gather data from devices.  These actions by police to sabotage personal and journalistic media and communications should be prohibited.

 Thus, I suggest that in future versions of such OSCE ODIHR guidebooks on policing for protests:
  1.  That additional panelists be included to reflect a more well-rounded viewpoint, including those who plan and participate in protests;
  2.  That camping protests be addressed;
  3. That sit-in or occupation protests be addressed;
  4. That the specific method and manner of arrests be addressed and that police be prohibited from requiring or forcing any person to lie on the ground;
  5. That the practice of targeting peaceful leaders for arrest be prohibited.
  6. That police should be prohibited from jamming or interfering with wifi or phone signals or from using stingrays to gather data.

Among the positive highlights of the guidebook as the topics relate to the protesters or those engaged in the assembly , I have found these things (These are being numbered for use in referencing them; they are not in any order of importance.)

1. Freedom of peaceful assembly is a fundamental human right and, as such, is considered one of the cornerstones of a democratic society. (pg 12)

2. That protests often block traffic or cause inconvenience: "Many assemblies will also cause some degree of disruption to routine activities; they may occupy roads and thoroughfares or impact traffic, pedestrians and the business community. Such disruption caused by the exercise of fundamental freedoms must be treated with some degree of tolerance. It must be recognized that public spaces are as much for people to assemble in as they are for other types of activity, and thus the right to assemble must be facilitated. (pg 13)

3. That there must be a balancing act between the different people wishing to use the space: "Where peaceful protest interferes with the rights and freedoms of others it will often be the responsibility of the police to balance respect for of those rights with the right to freedom of assembly." (pg 14)

4. That there is a human right to peaceful assembly, but not to engage in violence against property or people:  "The right to assemble is a right to assemble peacefully. There is no right to act in a violent manner when exercising one’s right to assemble. If an individual acts violently while participating in an assembly, then that individual is no longer exercising a protected human right. However, violent acts by isolated individuals do not necessarily affect the right to assemble of those who remain peaceful." (pg 15)

5. Even if the protesters fail to comply with regulations (such as local regulations that may require a permit) police should still facilitate the protest:  "It should be noted that even though an assembly organizer or individual participants may fail to comply with legal requirements for assemblies, this alone does not release the police from their obligation to protect and facilitate an assembly that remains peaceful." (pg 15)

6. What is "peaceful assembly"?   "Peaceful Assembly: An assembly should be deemed peaceful if the organizers have professed peaceful intentions and the conduct of the participants is non-violent. Peaceful intention and conduct should be presumed unless there is compelling and demonstrable evidence that those organizing or participating in that particular event themselves intend to use, advocate or incite imminent violence. The term “peaceful” should be interpreted to include expressive conduct that may annoy or give offence, and even conduct that temporarily hinders, impedes or obstructs the  activities of third parties. 2 An assembly should be considered peaceful, and thus facilitated by the authorities, even if the organizers have not complied with all legal requirements. Lack of such compliance should not be an excuse to inhibit, disrupt or try to prevent an assembly." (pg. 14-15)

7. What is not "peaceful assembly"? "Assemblies that incite hatred, violence or war, aim to deliberately restrict or deny the rights of others or aim to intimidate, harass or threaten others, in violation of applicable law, are not considered to be protected assemblies. Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that “any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law, and that any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.” (pg 15)

8. If some of the protesters are violent, police should deal with those individuals and not deny the whole group the right to assemble: "If individuals or small groups of people engage in acts of physical violence during an assembly, the police should always ensure that their response is proportionate and focuses on those who are engaged in violent behaviour rather than directed at the participants in the assembly more generally. This is true whether the violence is directed against the police, individuals, property, people within the assembly or those perceived to be in opposition."  (pg 18)

Example from recent news: Such a situation was seen at a recent protest in Portland, Oregon, after the 2016 presidential election.  A very large protest took place.  A small subset of individuals came armed with bats and metal bars, and broke windows on shops and smashed the windows and metal on cars.  The Portland police were heard on videos telling those not engaged in the violence to separate themselves from the violent protesters and go protest at a different location where peaceful protests were being held.  The police then declared the area a riot and stated that all present were under arrest.  Overall, it appeared that the Portland police did a good job of protecting the rights of the peaceful protesters while being able to arrest a significant number of the violent protesters.

9. Costs of Policing should not be charged to protesters or organizers.  Insurance coverage should not be required: "The costs of providing adequate security and safety (including policing and traffic management operations) should be fully covered by the public authorities. The state must not levy any financial charge for providing adequate policing. Organizers of non-commercial public assemblies should not be required to obtain public-liability insurance for their event." (pg 21)

NOTE:  I would like to see this expanded to say that a City should open its available public restrooms for use by those in an assembly or protest.  Other nearby facilities, such as park benches, picnic tables, public transportation stations and bus stops, drinking fountains and water spigots, electrical outlets, bicycle racks, and other existing facilities should be open and their use not denied to protesters.

10. Police should not interfere with or restrict media journalists.  No distinction should be made between media organizations and independent journalists.  People should be allowed to video or photograph the police.  Police should not confiscate or damage cameras, cell phones, or other equipment of the journalists. (pgs 33-34)

11. That police officers may never act as agents provocateurs: "That officers must not act as agents provocateurs and may never instigate, participate or incite illegal actions within the assembly." (pg 71)  This topic is limited to a single sentence, but should instead be printed in huge bold letters taking up an entire page.  There are many stories of police acting as agents provocateurs and trying to incite violence or entrap protesters.  It is heartening to see this despicable practice prohibited by OSCE ODIHR.

12. Policing Strategy:  Part II of the guidebook, which is pages 42-125, deals with the police planning and strategy.  Topics include the use of water cannons, chemical agents, impact round (less than lethal weapons), and firearms.  Notably absent is discussion of the use of a sound cannon or LRAD.   If you are involved in planning protests or in giving legal advice or assistance to those who do plan protests, you should read this entire section.  It will give you a picture of the details of planning, infrastructure, and expense that go into running a police force that can properly handle public assemblies. (pgs 42-125)  It can also help you understand the rights of protesters and how to protect them from harm.  Although each city in the U.S. and each city worldwide all have different specific laws regarding public assembly, there is a commonality to the approach.  This guidebook is an attempt to get the OSCE member nations all on the same framework of respect for human rights in peaceful assemblies.

NOTE: My personal observation has been that the more organizers and protesters or participants in public assemblies are aware of the laws, rules, regulations, and practices of the police and city, the more likely the protest is to be peaceful.   The more people can engage in peaceful protest, the better the democracy.  Protest and assembly are basic human rights that lead to better government.

So, too, the more aware that people are of the possibility that there may be people who show up at a peaceful protest with the intent of disrupting it with violence or chaos, the more likely the peaceful ones are to separate themselves from the violence.  Knowledge is a powerful thing.


More about OSCE:

The OSCE has 57 participating States from Europe, Central Asia and North America:
    • Albania
    • Andorra
    • Armenia
    • Austria
    • Azerbaijan
    • Belarus
    • Belgium
    • Bosnia and Herzegovina
    • Bulgaria
    • Canada
    • Croatia
    • Cyprus
    • Czech Republic
    • Denmark
    • Estonia
    • Finland
    • France
    • Georgia
    • Germany
    • Greece
    • Holy See
    • Hungary
    • Iceland
    • Ireland
    • Italy
    • Kazakhstan
    • Kyrgyzstan
    • Latvia
    • Liechtenstein
    • Lithuania
    • Luxembourg
    • Malta
    • Moldova
    • Monaco
    • Mongolia
    • Montenegro
    • Netherlands
    • Norway
    • Poland
    • Portugal
    • Romania
    • Russian Federation
    • San Marino
    • Serbia
    • Slovakia
    • Slovenia
    • Spain
    • Sweden
    • Switzerland
    • Tajikistan
    • the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
    • Turkey
    • Turkmenistan
    • Ukraine
    • United Kingdom
    • United States
    • Uzbekistan









 




About my involvement with OSCE ODIHR: Susan Basko, the author of this article, is a lawyer in the United States of America. Among other things, she assists those who want to plan a protest.  She is open in helping people from the wide spectrum of political and personal viewpoints.  IN 2012, she assisted OSCE ODIHR in a study of protests throughout the world, with her expertise being lent to the U.S. protests taking place in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Oakland, California.  Ms. Basko was invited by OSCE ODIHR to participate in a summit of leaders and activists from around the globe.  That meeting was held in Vienna, Austria. Ms. Basko contributed by making proposals for international laws to require nations not to interfere with internet or phone signals during a protest.  That proposal was accepted by the assembly and became part of the recommendations for laws sent to the 57 participating nations.  Ms. Basko sees OSCE ODIHR as the organization making the biggest impact worldwide to protect the human rights of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of the media.


Questions about Protests


Questions about Protests
by Susan Basko, esq

I was just looking at the Google Queries that led people to this blog today.  These include the following questions, which I will answer.  I am taking the google search queries exactly at they were written: 


how long do protesters go to jail 
Protesting is legal in the United States.  It is our right under the Constitution.  The vast majority of people that participate in protests do not get arrested. Some people do get arrested at protests, usually for such things as blocking traffic, trespassing, or property damage.  It is also possible to be arrested at a protest for no reason other than being targeted by the police.  In most cases, those who are arrested are let out after a few hours or within a day. Sometimes they are charged with a crime and sometimes they are not.  If they are charged with a crime, then they are usually given a date to go to Court.  If a person was arrested at a protest for something more serious, such as breaking windows or starting something on fire, then they will probably be held and should go before a judge within a couple of days to set bail.  If a person is arrested and has an outstanding warrant from something that happened before, they will usually have to be in jail until they can clear up that warrant.  That has been known to take weeks.  If you know you have an outstanding warrant, then you should probably avoid going to a protest or being arrested.

KEEP IN MIND that many people who are arrested at protests are doing so intentionally as a form of CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE.  They intentionally break the law because they want to be arrested as a form of protest. If you do not want to get arrested and if people start talking about "Civil Disobedience," then avoid participating with them since their goal is to be arrested.  Don't be swayed or coerced by what they say.  If you don't want to be arrested, do not participate in activities that are geared to get you arrested.  A lot of people leading such activities fail to plan for or take care of those they have caused to be arrested.

how long does it take to get a permit in nyc to have a protest
 I don't know, but in most cases, you do not need a permit to hold a protest.  If you keep the protest in a public space, such as a plaza, or on the public sidewalk, you don't need a permit.  Applying for a permit in other cities I do know about can take months.  That all makes no sense since the thing you are protesting about will most likely be over before a city gives you a permit.  If you are planning a really big protest tied to a future event, then it makes sense to apply for a permit.  International law says that cities are supposed to accommodate the rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, even if this inconveniences others.

can fbi search a computer if not listed on search list
The FBI is supposed to have a search warrant before it can search a computer.  Ask to see a warrant and read it carefully.  As you note, the search warrant has a list of places to be searched and items to be seized. If the computer is not on the list, then it is not supposed to be searched or seized (taken).  If the FBI doesn't have a valid search warrant that lists the computer, then any evidence they find on the computer might be suppressed as being gotten without a lawful search warrant.

HOWEVER, if you give permission to the FBI or to any other police agency to search your computer or to search anything, then you are forfeiting your rights and protections.  Never give permission to allow any police or agency to search anything. If police or an agent ask you "Do you mind if we look?,"  the answer is, "Yes, I do mind.  No, I do not give my permission for any type of search."  I know of an instance where law enforcement agents asked to search and seize computers during a swat -- a false emergency call to the police.  If asked for permission, say no.

chicago protest permit
In Chicago, you do not need a permit to protest unless you are in locations where a permit is required to gather a large group, or if you plan to block the street.  Even then, international law standards say that if a protest is large, it should be allowed in the street.  See the article on this blog about Where You Can Protest in Chicago.   Getting a permit in Chicago is a lengthy process and should be reserved for times when you are planning well into the future.  If you are just holding a simple protest -- go out and do it.  If you want it to be legal, keep it to the public sidewalks and publicly-owned plazas.

do protesters have to have a permit to march on streets
To march on the sidewalk, you do not need a permit.  To march in the street, you do need a permit in most cities. HOWEVER, the international law standard says that the police should accommodate a large protest and let them march in the streets.  If a protest blocks traffic, often there will be arrests.  Something may be the "right" of a protest, but that does not mean protesters won't be arrested.  If there is a big group, sometimes police will follow the international law guidelines and accommodate the protest so it can be held on the street.  Not always, though, so you need to gauge what is happening and listen to instructions if you want to avoid being arrested.

do you need a permit to protest
 No,  Protest does not require a permit if you keep it on the sidewalks or in a publicly-owned plaza.

do you need permits to protest in california
No, see answers above.

find a place to protest
You can protest on a public sidewalk or in a publicly-owned plaza.  Look where others in your area have successfully run protests and use that same space.

how long do you sit in jail protesting
Most protesters do not get arrested.  Of the few that are arrested, most are released within a few hours.  A very few will be kept up to 2 days, if they are facing charges and need to go before a judge to set bail.   If a protester has an outstanding warrant for their arrest from something that happened before, they might be kept until the warrant is cleared up, which can take weeks.

how much does a protest permit cost
A protest permit should be free.  You don't need a permit if you keep your protest on a public sidewalk or in a publicly-owned plaza.  If you are running a big protest for a specific event and you do want to get a permit, there is usually no cost in most cities -- but a city might insist on such things as insurance, porta-potties, etc.  International standards state that a city should bear the cost of policing and should not require insurance. If your protest is just a rally or march held on short notice in public spaces and on public sidewalks, then you will be doing that without a permit.  Sometimes a big protest is also held without a permit.  If there are many people and they do not all fit on the sidewalk, sometimes it will be held in the street, even without a permit.

why are people being arrested for protesting
Protesting is legal, so the vast majority of protesters do not get arrested. Sometimes protesters do get arrested. Sometimes the arrests are targeted by police who are looking to harass the people they perceive as leaders.  Sometimes police act crazy at a protest and engage in what are almost random kidnappings of people. But that is pretty rare and more confined to cities where the police are poorly trained.  But it does happen, so it is good to be aware of.   AND. . .

Other than that, the main reasons protesters get arrested are:

  • Being in the street when they've been told by police to get out of the street.
  • Blocking traffic or blockading a roadway.
  • Sitting in traffic or in the street.
  • Writing on anything with spray paint or markers.
  • Carrying any fire-creating device such as fireworks or a road flare, or using one to start fire.
  • Causing any damage to property or people.
  • Climbing on any vehicle.  Rocking or tipping any vehicle.
  •  Harassing or menacing other people walking, in shops, in cars, etc.
  • Trespassing onto private property.
  • Blocking an entry, exit, elevator, public transportation, etc.
  • Not following police orders during the protest.
  • Possessing a bottle bomb, bat, gun, knife, etc.
  • Throwing anything.
  • Not leaving if the police have announced it is an UNLAWFUL ASSEMBLY. Once the police call this, then anyone that stays can be arrested.
  • Not leaving if police announce it is a RIOT.  Once the police call it a RIOT, then they can also announce that everyone there is "Under arrest."







Deray sued by Cop for Incitement: Far-Fetched

Deray McKesson
Deray sued by Cop for Incitement:  Far-Fetched
by Susan Basko, esq.


Tuesday, November 9, 2016.  Yesterday afternoon, a lawsuit was filed against Deray McKesson of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement by an unnamed police officer from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  The police officer claims that the BLM activist, popularly known as Deray, incited violence during a protest in Baton Rouge.  The officer was injured by a man who threw a rock or piece of concrete at his face.  The officer does not claim that Deray played any part in the rock throwing, nor does he name any words spoken by Deray that allegedly would cause the other man to throw the stone.  Nor does he claim that Deray ever spoke with the man who threw the rock.  Rather, he claims that Deray was present at the protest, he is a BLM leader, and that he was speaking with others at the protest.  The officer claims that Deray was "ordering" others.  The officer also sued Black Lives Matter, which is not an organization, but a movement of people nationwide in protest of police killings of Black people.  You can read about the lawsuit against Deray in this article in the Daily Kos.  There is some sort of affiliation of BLM chapters, but Deray's group does not belong to it.  Rather, he is a founder of a group called Campaign Zero, which seeks to end police violence by collecting data and strategically affecting Use of Force policies and police union contracts.

Deray was arrested at the protest in Baton Rouge, as seen on video live streamed by both himself and his friends.  At the time, Deray was walking in a legal space along the side of a road. From the video, there was nothing discernable as being illegal in Deray's actions.  He was simply walking along in a protest with his friends, when he was set upon and dragged off.  Several days after the arrests, Baton Rouge announced it would not be charging about half of those arrested, including Deray.  Such arrests still severely chill rights by making people less likely to participate in protests, which is their legal right as forms of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.

Deray and a group of others filed a federal class action lawsuit against the Baton Rouge saying the police violated the civil rights of the protesters by acted in a militarized and aggressive manner toward them.  You can read about this here in the Guardian.

This lawsuit by the Baton Rouge police officer is highly unusual in several ways:  First, if any incitement to violence had taken place, it would be a crime that could be prosecuted, and not usually handled as a private action tort, or lawsuit.  Second, it is very unusual for a police officer to sue someone as an unnamed John Doe.  Third, "incitement to violence" requires words that are an imminent call to violence, and in this case, no such words have been alleged.  It is not even alleged that Deray ever spoke to the man who threw the stone.  The known words of Deray that are heard on video have Deray stating that the protesters had been peaceful and the police had not been.  It is very far-fetched that such words could be considered incitement, aside from it being even more far-fetched that the man throwing the stone even heard the words.  Fourth, neither Deray nor his group called the protest.  It would be extremely unusual to try to hold Deray responsible for what happened at the protest.

In any protest group or other gathering, there can be people who either come to cause trouble or get caught up in the moment.  Each person is responsible for their own behavior.  Incitement involves an exhortation or urging to imminent violent action. There simply is no known evidence that any such thing happened at the Baton Rouge protest.

The lawsuit against Deray also claims he did not try to calm down the protesters.  However, from Deray's perspective, it was the police who were out of control, overly aggressive, militarized, and acting inappropriately toward peaceful protesters.  From the videos, it looks as if Deray was simply trying to keep himself and his closest friends out of harm's way.

What makes this lawsuit even more far-fetched is the nature of Deray himself.  For the past month or so, I have been blessed with being granted a coveted spot at seminars run by Deray at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics.  I've had the opportunity to hear and learn from Deray, to meet and listen to his closest associates in Campaign Zero and the Black Lives Matter movement.  There is no way on earth Deray incited anyone to violence.  I'd describe Deray as highly intelligent, well-spoken, calm, funny, slight nerdy,  friendly, busy, practical.  I could picture him participating in a spelling bee or a math contest, not in a gun battle.

When Deray was arrested, he seemed surprised, so much so that naysayers online claimed it was staged. Nope, he was just a goody two shoes walking along, shocked to be arrested and hauled off for no particular reason.  The wide-eyed "deer in the headlights" look in the pics of him being arrested is genuine.  Deray's response to the lawsuit against him has been that he hopes the Baton Rouge Police will return his bookbag.

Deray's associates from the BLM movement are strikingly brilliant and filled with hope and ideas.  One such is Sam Sinyangwe, who gathers and charts data on police department Use of Force policies and killings by police.  Another is Brittany Packnett, a graduate of the prestigious George Washington University in St. Louis, who trains educators as her full-time job and volunteers to help raise awareness for the Black Lives Matter movement.  Anyone who is hoping to find swaggering tough-talking throwbacks to the 1960 radical days will be surprised that the BLM movement is run by top-tier graduates of prestigious schools, with perfect diction, poise, grace, seemingly boundless natural energy, positive enthusiasm, and a strong dose of humor.  There is much good-natured laughter in our seminars.

Deray was formerly a 6th grade math teacher at a Baltimore public school with violence problems.  Just yesterday, Deray stated that he he disagreed with many people and thought there should be police in schools, or at least in schools with problems of violence.  But he does not think police should be handcuffing kids and taking them to the office, but rather than they should be on hand for incidents of violence.  This does not sound like a man who would incite someone to toss a rock at another human.

If the Baton Rouge police officer suing Deray is hoping to pose Deray as a tough talking bad guy, he's got quite a surprise coming.   It is too far-fetched.



How to Run a Protest - Basics




How to Run a Protest - Basics
By Susan Basko, esq.

At least once a week, I get a query from someone wanting to run their first protest. There's a lot of protests happening these days.  That's a good thing, since it means people worldwide are exercising their rights to seek redress of grievances by calling public attention to the matter.  The basic list I am giving here is for the U.S. Please understand that what is legal in the U.S. may not be so elsewhere.  In fact, in some nations, protesters have been put to death.  This is also a reminder that if you are in the U.S., to cherish and value out rights to protest.  If you see a protest, rather than think of it as an annoyance, think of it as a refreshing and valuable exercise of our U.S. Constitution.   Even if you don't agree with the protesters, be proud of the freedom that gives them the right to protest.

HOW TO RUN A PROTEST:

1.  CHOOSE YOUR TOPIC. Your protest must have a topic.  The protest can be for something, against something, or generally educational or rallying.   Some topics can be wide: for example, against racism, against police brutality, for reproductive rights. Or a topic can be narrow: a protest because a particular police officer was not indicted for police brutality, a protest against a particular expansion of a pipeline, etc. 

2. CHOOSE YOUR FORMAT.  There are many kinds of formats for protests, including a march, a rally,  camping in tents, a sit-in or holding a space, attending a public meeting and possibly raising a ruckus, street theater such as performance, a flash mob of singing or dancing, projection of pictures or video, holding a group bike ride, candlelight vigil, etc.  Some protest formats are low commitment, such as a rally and march, and some are high commitment, such as camping, a sit-in, or holding a space.

The most common forms of protest are a rally and a march.  A rally takes place in one large public location, such as park or plaza.  A march moves as a line or parade along a sidewalk or street.

3. PICK A LOCATION.  PERMITS: THE GENERAL RULES.  In most locations in the U.S., the general rule is that you do not need a permit to protest, unless you are going to be blocking the street or interfering with pedestrian, car, or bike traffic.  

The other general rule is that it is legal to hold a protest in a PUBLIC space such as a government plaza or park, unless it is specifically designated as being for some other purpose such as art displays or music concerts.  The PUBLIC sidewalk is a legal place to hold a protest march, but you must leave enough space for others who also want to use the sidewalk.  Conversely, it is generally illegal to hold a protest in on PRIVATE property. Some examples of private property are a shopping mall or a private plaza or private sidewalk. 

If you want to close down the street and want to do it legally, you need a permit. If that is your plan, you are best to get a local lawyer to assist you.  Many will do this for free.

For a BASIC protest, let's say you are going to meet in a public location and then go on a sidewalk march. Let's say you expect a group of anywhere from 20 to 200 people to attend.

Try to pick a location that relates to the topic of the protest or to the intended audience.  For example, if you want to show your support or disapproval of a certain act of government, you may want to stand with signs by the side of a busy road during rush hour and ask people to honk their car horns in agreement.  If you want to protest something the federal government is doing, show up at a federal plaza or building.  If you want to protest what a mayor is doing, protest at City Hall.  If you don't like what a certain company is doing, protest outside their headquarters or nearby location.  If no location is applicable or convenient, then pick any general public plaza or sidewalk.  

4. SET YOUR DATE AND TIME.  Most cities, when giving permits for a protest, allot time slots of 2 hours.  If this is your first protest, stick to the 2-hour window.  That keeps it compact and manageable.  As you get more experienced and have a group you can trust, you can move on to more elaborate plans.

Choose the date, day of the week and time slot when your people can attend.  For a successful first protest, it is best to choose a time when students and workers can attend without problems, which is usually after school or work or on a weekend.  Check what is happening at the place you plan to hold the protest. For example, if you plan to hold your protest in a city plaza, but if at that same time there will be a band concert or a holiday event in the plaza, you are best off choosing a different time or place.    

5. NOISE: When setting your date and time, be sure you are not interfering with religious services that are held near your chosen location.  In many cities, it is illegal to make noise outside a place of religious worship during services.  It may also be illegal to hold a noisy protest near a hospital, school, or nursing home.  It is also illegal to interfere with a clinic or with patients or medical personnel coming and going.

6. FORMAT/ SCHEDULE.  You have chosen your topic, your format, your place, your date and 2-hour time slot.  Now, figure out how you will spend your 2 hours.  Usually this will be divided into gathering, holding the protest, and breaking up/ clean-up.  The typical events include people holding signs, speakers, chants, singing, music, dance, drumming.  

One of the most effective protests I ever saw was a simple march down a sidewalk in a very busy area in a major city, where each of the marchers held a yellow helium-filled balloon on a string.  They had a drummer.  They had a few signs to explain what they were protesting.  They had information people to talk with the public.  They also had printed flyers they would hand to people who showed an interest.  

7. GATHER YOUR GROUP.  Publicity. Commitment.  Dividing Responsibility.

8. WILL YOU BE ARRESTED?  The main thing that gets protesters arrested is blocking the streets.  It is as simple, and as complicated, as that.  See other posts here for more info. 




Ferguson big DONATIONS list


Ferguson big DONATIONS list

You can donate to the people in Ferguson,  Missouri in many ways.  This list is re-blogged from:

Here is a list of donations, protests, and petitions that you can do to help the people in #Ferguson and to assist #MikeBrown and #EzellFord all others who have been killed by the hands of the police. I will try to update as much as possible.
 
Donations for Mike Brown’s Family:
 
Michael Brown Memorial Fund:
 
These funds will assist his family with costs that they will acquire as they seek justice on Michael’s behalf. All funds will be given to the Michael Brown family.
 
 
College 4 MikeBrown’s Siblings:
 
This effort will help support Mike Brown’s siblings, 2 younger sisters and a younger brother go to college. It is run by Sara Goldrick-Rab, UW professor of the Wisconsin HOPE Lab (http://www.wihopelab.com) and Michael Johnson of the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County (Madison, WI) can vouch that all funds will go directly to the family.
 
Other Donations:
Jail support info for those who are arrested at Mike Brown rallies in Ferguson.
 
 
Bail and Legal Fund for Those Arrested During Ferguson Anti-Police Demonstrations:
A bail and legal fund has been established to support people who have been arrested during the anti-police demonstrations in Ferguson, Mo. If you have a friend or family member who was arrested, please email us their name at antistatestl@riseup.net
 
 
#OperationHelpOrHush:
 
Donations to Protestors in Ferguson to provide food and other supplies. All monies will go directly to purchase those items. This is for PAYPAL DONATIONS ONLY:  SadittyCooks@gmail.com
 
The also have tshirts available all proceeds will go to fund this campaign.
 
They are looking for medical and mental health professionals, counselors, as well as community organizers to go to Ferguson to assist those who are in that area. Also if you are willing to donate sky miles or buddy passes please contact: Please use this email address for volunteer services ONLY: ophelporhush@gmail.com
 
There is also an amazon wish list set up to help children receive school supplies in Ferguson. This list is SEPARATE from the wish list that is set up for protestors:
 
 
Amazon Gift List:
 
These items are being directly shipped to St. Louis, MO to assist protestors who are on the frontline in Ferguson. It includes toiletries, items to help in clean up the area, food etc. You can also send notes in the some of the packages shipped.
 
 
Feed the students of Ferguson:
 
This fund was originally set up to feed the students who go to school in Ferguson who were to start school on August 14th. Many students in Ferguson rely on meals provided in school, and the delay in the start of classes means that many of the children will not eat.
 
 
*Jennings students still needing free lunch or any mental services can contact their school directly for more assistance* Referenced: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/article_c2435462-d3e4-59f6-9edd-2ae6b5cfe438.html
 
St. Stephen’s Food Pantry
 
The help distribute food to those in need and currently due to the situation going on in Ferguson they were looted and those goods go to needy families in that area. They need boxed meals such as Hamburger Helper and lots of toiletries. Donations are now being accepted on their website: http://saint-stephens.info/collaboration/our-community-the-vine/food-pantry/
 
Here is the contact info for shipping items:
 
St. Stephen’s Food Pantry
33 N Clay Ave Ferguson, MO 63135
Ph: 314-521-0138
 
St. Louis Business Journal has created a list resource list for those who also need assistance in their community. There list will also be updated as they collect more information. Please click link: http://www.bizjournals.com/stlouis/morning_call/2014/08/as-unrest-continues-in-ferguson-volunteers.html?ana=twt
 
St. Louis Urban League: http://www.ulstl.com/
They are accepting donations for school supplies for the children in Ferguson and collecting non-perishable food items. Here is the 2014-2015 school supply list for the Ferguson/Florissant School District: http://www.fergflor.org/pages/Ferguson-Florissant_SD/Parents/6725006080717623026
 
Please call 314-615-3668 for more questions.
 
If you wish to donate items to STL Urban League please ship them to:
ATTN: Barbara Bowman
Urban League Metropolitan of St. Louis
3701 Grandel Square
St. Louis, MO 63108
 
Petitions:
 
Petition for Federal Laws to Protect Citizens from Police Violence and Misconduct
 
 
Mike Brown Law. Requires all state, county, and local police to wear a camera:
 A petition for a Mike Brown Law is asking to be created because to the latest accounts of deadly encounters with police. That law will set aside funds to require all state, county, and local police, to wear a camera.
 
 
Petition to remove Bob McCulloch from any grand jury proceedings in regards to the Micheal Brown investigation. Find information about it here:https://www.change.org/p/judge-maura-please-recuse-biased-prosecutor-bob-mcculloch-2?recruiter=37856323&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=share_twitter_mobile
 
Don’t Shoot MO Campaign
 
Please review website for more information:
 
Protests:
 
 
 
Other Pertinent Info:
 
 
 
#Ferguson Support Collection:
This was a google doc that was created that has information on crisis counseling for those affected by the happenings in Ferguson, ustreams of live protests, legal support, etc.
 
United Way of St. Louis has crisis support services that are available to those affected by the tragic events in . To find help, please call 2-1-1 or 1-800-427-4626.
 
Students from Walnut Grove Elem can come to the Ferguson Library where a few teachers have activities set up for their students from 9am to 4pm. Please refer to the website for more info:  ferguson.lib.mo.us